Laminator is the device that applies a special film to the surfaces, which need to be protected. It makes safe and water-resistant various documents, papers, printed materials, crafts, sheets of paper, cards, menus, badges etc. It may work with heat-sensitive materials (eg. a transparent film), foil or other. There are various types of laminators. The main of them are laminators with hot plates, internal or external heated rollers.
Quick Picks – Which is the best laminator?
- Scotch TL1306 Pro 12 1/2″, – Excellent Thermal Laminator. Editor’s Choice
- Fellowes Neptune3 Advanced 4-roller FEL5721401, – Best Cold and Hot Laminator
- AmazonBasics Thermal, – Best Laminator for Teachers
- Swingline, Thermal, – Best Cost Efficient Laminator for Office Work
- Staples XRX 9.5 Thermal & Cold, – Best Value for Money
Best Laminators Comparison
Editor’s Choice, Best Thermal Laminator
|Speed - 18"/minute
Warm-Up Time - 1 Minute
Laminates 3-6 mil pouches
|Speed - 24"/minute
Lamination Thickness - 7 mil
10 x 3 mil letter pouch
|Width - 9"
Warm-Up Time - 4 Minutes
Temperature Settings - 2
Laminates 3-5 mil pouches
|Speed - 9"/minute
Entry Width - 9"
Warm-Up Time - 4 Minutes
Laminates 3-5 mil pouches
& Cold Laminator
|Speed - 12"/minute
Input Width - 9.50"
Throat Width - 9.5"
Warm-Up Time - 5 Minutes
Temperature Settings - 3
Laminates 3-5 mil pouches
Types of Laminators
Rolled laminators are used in printing houses or large copy centers as professional equipment. These laminator models consume a film in rolls, work with any paper formats, including A0, and can produce a big number of copies.
Its exploitation and maintenance is quite expensive and difficult.
Pouch laminators are more suitable for home, small offices, schools, classrooms. A special film is required for lamination process. It is ready to work with standard sized documents (A6 – A2), consists of two film sheets sealed on one side.
The inner surface is covered with special heat-activated adhesive substance (glue). This pouch containing print materials and film is passed through the laminator with its sealed side forward.
What is a pouch laminator?
The type of the heating element defines quality of lamination. This is one of the most important features of the device. There are three main types of pouch laminators: with hot plates, as well as external and internal heated rollers.
The pouch with a film and a document is set through the gap between the heated plates. On the other end, it is pressed to the surface of the document with the help of cold rollers. This technology is not superb. Since the plates do not have contact with the film, it leads to its uneven heating and further deformation. Bubbles, waves and folds may appear on the surface. Production of laminators with this technology is almost discontinued.
In laminators with external heating rollers, there is a heating element inside the body. It heats the rollers. Such laminators are more expensive, but they do not have the disadvantages of laminators with hot plates. The temperature on the rollers is more even. The disadvantages of this technology is in restricted time of uninterrupted work – up to 1 hour. Than the device must be cooled during 15 – 20 minutes before the next session. The devices of this kind are now the best value for money.
In laminators with internal heating rollers, the heating element is placed inside the rollers. It provides uniform even heating, the highest quality of lamination, unlimited working time. Besides, it is possible to use any materials, including glossy ones. This technology is used in professional models, the cost of which is significantly higher than laminators with external heating rollers.
Pouch laminators’ key features and specifications
Laminators are specified by maximum sheet size that can be laminated. A2 size is the largest size of sheets that modern pouch laminators can work with. The devices with large sheet size are able to laminate documents and smaller formats: A4, A5, A6. Larger A3-A0 sheet sizes may be processed by rolled laminations. When choosing a sheet size, you should take into account not only current tasks, but also possible future needs. A4 is the most popular sheet size, A3 – the most versatile.
Maximum foil thickness is one of the main characteristics of the laminator. 80 – 100 micron thickness is the most popular film with users. Currently, lamination films are available in the range from 60 to 250 microns. The thicker the foil is, the higher the cost of the device, which is able to work with it. A film with 50-150 microns thickness is used for paper documents, 150-250 microns – for badges, passes and other documents.
Temperature and speed adjustment
There are models equipped with a mechanical or electronic thermostat. They are recommended for working with films of different thickness. The higher density of the foil, the higher temperature is needed. Entry-level laminators are designed to work with films of low thickness (i.e. up to 80 microns). The option of speed and temperature modification is a convenient feature, which makes the lamination result better though some skills and expertise for this is required.
There is a warm-up phase of a laminator work. 5 to 8 minutes for the laminator to be heated up to the working temperature is required. The best professional models offer 1 – 2 minutes of warm-up phase. Their price is high. Models, designed for office work, usually are heated up for 4 – 5 minutes. Usually there is also a visual or audible signal of the device readiness to operate.
This feature directly depends on the laminator’s price and specification. Laminating speed of the entry-level devices is 30–60 cm / min, or 1–2 A4 sheets. The speed can be up to 190 cm / min or about 6 sheets in expensive rolled laminators.
Heating rollers number
For the film to cover evenly the document and to fit snugly against it, rollers must be heated. The bigger number of the rollers, the better quality of lamination is. Usually 2 rollers are used. The models with 4 and 6 rollers provide a very flat laminated surface and the best quality though they are much more expensive. There is no point for their home usage.
Sometimes the film is accidentally wound on rollers. For releasing and cleaning the laminator a reverse mode is required. If this function is absent, the laminator must be almost completely disassembled.
This is a process of lamination by pressure. A special film with a glue base is used. This feature will allow you to laminate heat sensitive documents – photographs, old paper and synthetic materials.
Fellowes Neptune3 Advanced 4-roller FEL5721401, – Best Cold and Hot Laminator
Pressing a special button will allow you to unclench laminator rollers and to release the document stuck in them. This function is usually available in the models that are not equipped with reverse mode.
Pouch laminators’ advantages:
- high availability and variety;
- simple device design;
- support one-sided or double-sided lamination functions;
- do not require outstanding skills when working with the device;
- professional-level models are equipped with the temperature and speed regulation;
- A3-A6 sheet size lamination.
Pouch laminators’ disadvantages:
- expensive consumables;
- low productivity;
- occasional exploitation;
- special models are intended for certain formats laminating;
- few models are equipped with the feature for one-sided lamination.
Best Laminator Picks
Fellowes Neptune3 Advanced 4-roller Review
Both technologies of hot and cold laminating are used in The Fellowes Neptune 3. The model automatically detects the size of the pouches, which are inserted. No additional button is required to press with this sensor system. This feature and the feature of quick speed heat make the device very practical in use but expensive. It does not provide protection against foil stick as in the Scotch TL1306 (below) but the reviewed model has the reverse mode. It can work with the pouches up 7 millimeters thick. One more useful feature is the device automatic shut off. It protects the laminator from being overheated and helps to save energy.
- Cold and hot laminating technology options
- Pouch thickness automatic detection
- Automated shut-off feature
- Fast heating – about a minute
- A reverse feature in case of foil jam
- The kit for laminating start included
- Fast operation speed (24’’ / min)
- Simple in usage
- Missing jam prevention technology
- High price
Scotch TL1306 Pro 12 1/2″ Review
This is a thermal laminator; it provides laminating of 3 to 6 millimeters thick. This item has one of the best warm up time (1 minute) and operating speed (18’’ / min.). The paper size is up to 12.3’’, which makes it good for compact documents like business card, menus but not for larger ones (like posters). 4 rollers provide smooth work of the laminator – 2 heated rollers for bonding the foil and 2 pressing rollers for sealing it. The item is ready for operation after the light indicator is on. Scotch TL1306 is also equipped with LED touchable display for controlling the device. After 1-hour of idle mode, the laminator is switched off automatically. It also features the option for the jam prevention. However, it cannot be offered for making rigid documents, which cannot be folded.
- 1 min. warm up time
- Automated jam prevention
- Quick operation, 18’’ / min.
- A big variety of pouch thickness
- Good choice for mid-sized documents
- Easy control by LED touchable display
- Automated shut-off feature after 1 hour idle mode
- This item is on the pricey side
- Does not intended for larger documents like posters
- Does not provide documents’ extreme rigidness
- No warranty back up
AmazonBasics Thermal Review
This is a thermal laminator, the one with the good warm up time (4-5 min.) and two pre-set heating modes (3 and 5 mil.). 3 millimeter thickness of lamination film may be used for such papers as normal documents, photos, business cards, students’ crafts; 5 millimeter thickness – for thinner papers.
AmazonBasics Thermal is good for home, schools, small offices usage. It is easy; do not require special skills for operation though it is necessary to study a manual before operating the device. Adjustable temperature provides better quality. Parameters of the documents for laminating – up to 9’’. It is small and light weighted and may be easily moved or taken along. The time for warm up is quite competitive – 4 minutes. Light indicator will inform that laminator is ready to be operated. In case the film is stuck in the device, it can be easily removed due to special lever. It is open, and jammed material may be cleaned. There is no danger that the laminating pouch may be fitted in the wrong way. Once there is any problem, the handle of the laminator will release it. Entire sheet of paper may be laminated, as well as pieces, card stock, or photos.
Actually, everything, which is used in the classroom and needs to be used for multiple times, may be laminated. It is amusing for pupils or students making teaching material for multiple use by themselves. Compact dimensions allow placing the item on any spare surface without wasting time. The speed of the operation for AmazonBasics Thermal is 1 min. / sheet. A kit of laminating pouches is supplied with the laminator. Though please make sure to buy necessary sizes for your special needs.
- Quick 4 min. warm up
- A good choice for a classroom and home
- Laminating speed is 1 min. / sheet which is quite competitive
- Good value for money; the cheapest of the picks
- Easy operation, no special skills required
- Reliable jam release lever
- Wrong feeding prevention function
- You expect lighter weight for its dimensions
- Operation modes are restricted by 2 options
- Professional quality is not expected from this basic device
- Does not work with heat sensitive material
Swingline, Thermal Review
The laminator is a perfect choice for office or home operation, which provides almost professional quality lamination. This is one more budget saving devices with the feature of cold lamination.
Swingline laminator is a little bit more expensive than the listed above AmazonBasics. However, the function of cold lamination provides better quality work without noticeable wrinkles for heat sensitive materials. The machine is pre-set for 3 and 5 mil thickness of laminating pouches and is equipped with the light indicator of the readiness for work. Warming up takes no more than 4 minutes. Speed of laminating is 9’’ per min. There is a lever for mislead materials to be removed. The laminator is intended for processing various papers, documents, photos and crafts up to 9’’. It is very simple, no special skills is required for its usage. Due to some smell while processing the materials, it is better to use it in well-ventilated rooms.
- A reliable device with high energy efficiency
- Provides smooth and silent operation
- Cold lamination function for heat sensitive materials
- Versatile use, provides almost professional quality result
- Good price
- Some specific smell while operating
- Operation is restricted by 2 modes
Staples XRX 9.5 Thermal & Cold Review
The Staples XRX 9.5″ Thermal & Cold Laminator offers 6’’ to 10’’ wide documents lamination. It means that various documents, photos, crafts, sheets may be processed. The functions of hot and cold lamination can provide smooth and glossy result even for heat sensitive materials. The device can operate with laminating pouches up to 5 mil thickness. It provides both rigid and foldable lamination result. The lever of the machine can be unfolded if there is a need to remove the material. This machine needs 5 minutes for warm up, than the light will indicate its readiness.
There are some useful features missing in this laminator model. One is that it does not comprise of the automatic switch off after operation stop. However, the function of keeping the device on the lowest possible temperature can protect it from overheating until it is turned off.
The second – it does not provide the function of preventing wrong feed but there is a reverse mode to remove the spoiled material. The main distinctive feature of this model is in 3 settings of the temperature (thermostat). There is cold and hot technology to laminate a variety of documents and photos which may be selected for the operation. Hot lamination setting will provide reliable pouch seal (2 rolls work for laminating entire document including edges).
Cold lamination by pressing is intended for heat sensitive materials. A cool-down setting is the third temperature mode of the device. It may be selected after the laminating process is finished for lower temperature of laminating machine.
- 3 setting of temperature for the best quality
- Release lever for jammed material
- Wide laminating width
- A reverse function in case of wrong feed
- Produces both foldable or rigid result of lamination
- Auto-shutoff function is missing
- No function of preventing wrong feed
- More than 5 minutes for warm up